“La Tauromaquia” by Francisco Goya is an album of 33 etchings first published by the engraver himself in 1816. Several other editions followed. As of the third edition by Loizelet in Paris in 1876, the series included seven additional plates, inventoried A to G. The series that belongs to UNESCO is set No. 47 of the 150 published by the Calcografia Nacional of Madrid in 1990.
For this series, Goya had executed 50 preparatory red chalk drawings, which he engraved in two steps: first a few trial proofs taken from the pure etching state, then with the aquatint in order to vary lighting and dramatize the scene. By basing his series on the historical text by Moratin to trace the evolution of these races from their origin until 1800, Goya was addressing aficionados of the theme. He also depicted the exploits of the most famous bullfighters of his time: Pedro Romero, inventor of the classic rules, Ceballos, from Argentina, Martincho, well known for his acrobatics and Pepe Illo, illustrious for his exuberance. After the sarcasm in his “Caprichos” and the tragedy of his “Disasters”, Goya illustrated a more serene inspiration coming from his childhood memories. He recreated with precision the graceful gestures of “lidia”, or chose in “suertes” the most emotional moment.
Francisco Goya y Lucientes was born on March 30, 1746 in Fuendetodos, near Zaragoza (Spain). At the age of 14 he studied painting at Zaragoza with José Luzán. Between 1767 and 1771, he travelled frequently to France and Italy. He took part in the Academy of Parma competition by presenting “Hannibal crossing the Alps”. Back in Spain, he began working on a series of engravings based on paintings by Velazquez, who was, along with Rembrandt, his favourite master.
In 1785, Goya was named assistant director of painting at the Academy of San Fernando; then in 1786, he was appointed painter to the king of Spain. In 1792, he became deaf and started to have hallucinations. Despite this, he decorated the dome of the Royal Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida in 1798 and, the following year, he published his collection of “Caprichos” (Whims). He was then named first painter to the Spanish court. The invasion of his homeland by Napoleon’s armies in 1808 and the ensuing war affected him deeply and inspired two powerful masterpieces, “The charge of the Mamelukes” and “The third of May 1808”, completed in 1814 and preserved in the Prado Museum in Madrid. In the series “Disasters of War”, engraved in 1810, Goya immortalized his hopeless view of these events. After the death of his wife in 1812, the Spanish painter abandoned commissions from aristocrats command and, from 1816 onward concentrated his work on the lives of the people and on bullfighting. In 1824 he moved to Bordeaux (France) and had Gaulon print a series of four lithographs called “Bulls of Bordeaux”, which marked the height of his genius. After a short stay in Madrid in 1826, he returned to Bordeaux, where he passed away on April 16, 1828, at the age of 82.